Jay-Z continues to dazzle with his video for “Moonlight” off of “4:44.”
(The video is currently only available on Tidal. Click here to watch.)
People describe the music video as an all-Black remake of “Friends”, but that’s not quite accurate. The video isn’t a remake of “Friends”, but a look at a group of actors hired to do a Black remake of “Friends.”
Featured in the video are some of today’s finest young actors who happen to be Black: Issa Rae, Keith Stanfield, Lil Rel Howery, Jerrod Carmichael, Tessa Thompson and Tiffany Haddish.
When the video breaks the fourth wall, Hannibal Buress makes his appearance in the farce. Ross (Carmichael) asks Buress what he thinks of the show. Buress responds that it’s garbage. Who wants to see Black people remaking episodes of Seinfeld (as per Hannibal’s misquote)?
And the winner is…
The premise of “Moonlight” the song and a theme of “4:44” is Black excellence in the face of marginalization and oppression. The song derives its title from the 2016 film of the same name. At the 2016 Academy Awards ceremony Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway mistakenly announced “LaLa Land” as the winner in the Best Picture category. Jay-Z uses this moment to illustrate a truism: “We stuck in La La Land/Even when we win, we gon’ lose.”
Alan Yang directed the video. Like “30 Rock” often did, the video criticizes Hollywood’s lazy, Black adaptation of TV shows and movies. Often these adaptations do little more than rotate out white actors for Black actors. In doing so they fail to capture Black culture accurately. Even though Black actors get work from these shows they still lose. That’s the point the video and the song are trying to make.
Yang’s direction is subtle and poignant. When Ross realizes he’s caught up in the cycle his reaction is so small that only Rachael (Issa Rae) notices. The video ends with Ross on a bench, bathed in moonlight. The video’s themes and imagery are like mirrored images reflecting off of each other ad infinitum.
I’ve already come across like a Jay-Z Stan because of this album. If he releases another video I might have to recuse myself from writing about it. It’s getting bad.
Stay tuned for more?